According to the World Health Organization, the
average American is disabled with chronic illnesses by age 68. Given that the average life expectancy in the
United States is 78, that means that we can look forward to being disabled with
chronic illnesses the last 10 years of our life! If the average age of retirement is 65 then
that means there are just three “golden years” for the typical American. How depressing!
When I meet with patients each day, they tell me disabilities
and having the body break down are just part of “growing old”. Does it really have to be this way? Have we come to accept physical disabilities
as part of the “normal” aging process? Can
we live healthy and free from our bodies breaking down until our last day on
To help answer this question, there was a fascinating study
published this past week in the prestigious British Medical Journal. This study looked at 4,000 healthy French
people who were all at least 65 years old when the study started. The researches then followed these 4,000
people for the next 12 years to see who would develop physical disabilities.
What they found was really quite interesting, if you could
just adopt three simple healthy behaviors you could cut your risk of being
disabled in half.
The three behaviors to prevent disability identified in this
study are as follows:
- Stay physically active each day
- Have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Don’t smoke
While this seems incredibly simple to do, it is amazing that
most Americans cannot seem to adopt these three simple behaviors.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of at
least moderate physical activity five days a week and a diet that consists of
at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
What do you think? Is
it hard to stay physically active each day, eat plenty of fruits and
vegetables, and avoid smoking?